ROBERT “Dutchy” Holland made his debut for the Australian cricket side as a 38-year-old leg spinner at Brisbane’s Woolloongabba ground.
He faced the might of the West Indies in that 1984-85 summer – a West Indian side including fast bowlers Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding and Courtney Walsh.
“I was extremely nervous,” the retired engineering surveyor said yesterday at Tamworth’s Chaffey Park.
Holland is playing for Hunter Valley in this week’s NSW Veterans Cricket Championship.
He had his first game yesterday against Sydney.
After finishing unbeaten on 12 in his side’s 5-192 against Sydney, he took 1-25 from his six overs as HV dismissed their rivals for 170.
Holland loves playing his vets’ cricket.
At 60 plus he’s still fit and able to bowl his many leg-spinning deliveries.
His career started as a 13-year-old with the Southern Lakes District Club in Newcastle.
By 14 he was playing first grade and by the mid-’70s had made the NSW Sheffield Shield side.
After six or seven seasons playing Shield cricket for NSW he made his Test debut, aged 38, in Brisbane.
While he was nervous he remembers it as being “very hot”.
“We were beaten outright,” he said yesterday.
“I took a couple of wickets, two for about 100 off 18 overs. Got smashed about a bit.
“I hooked Garner once, it only went about 3m.”
Playing against Garner was something of a nightmare, with the giant West Indian (nicknamed Big Bird) able to make the ball lift off a good length, ball after ball, and then jamming in with a yorker.
“He got me with a full toss on the toe,” Holland said.
“It hurt like hell and I could feel moisture in there, but when I came off it was just perspiration (not blood).”
He played further Tests that summer in Adelaide and Sydney.
“It was a spinning wicket,” he said of the Sydney Cricket Ground.
“I took six and four, 10 wickets for the match. That was a highlight for me.
“Then I got picked to tour England in 1985.
“That was hard work over there. They had a very strong side – Gatting, Gower and Gooch. Played all six Tests and got beat 3-1, with two of the Tests washed out when we were going to get smashed.”
While he worked for Lake Macquarie City Council as an engineering surveyor, he was able to take leave with pay initially, and then leave without pay, to play for firstly NSW in the Sheffield Shield and then Australia.
In those days it was worth about $800 a game in the Shield and $3000 a game in Tests.
He played 11 Tests.
More recently, vets’ cricket has become his passion.
In 2000 he and a few cricketing mates started a side attending Golden Oldies festivals.
“We’ve been going since 2000,” he said.
“Our first one was in Rotarua and then every two years to another Golden Oldies.
“Been to Canada, Sri Lanka, England and a couple in Australia. This year it’s in Adelaide in November.
“We’ve got another group going; there’s still four or five originals.”
He said Roger Black, a tall HV batsman in the middle at Chaffey Park batting against Sydney, was one.
Ian Hodge is going and has been going since 2004.
“It’s just great fun. Great to get away and play and travel with friends,” Holland said.